Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Jeff Östberg, an empowering collection of three brief picture books on facing one’s fears.

Told in short rhyming couplets and atmospheric full-bleed illustrations, readers follow three young protagonists as they are each faced with a common childhood fear: a thunderstorm, the first day of school, and a doctor’s appointment. Each child is shown working through their fear in a unique way, be it choosing to manage their fear in order to comfort a younger sibling, connecting with a new friend who shares their fear and braving it together, or even having a good freakout and cry before finding the strength to weather the scary situation. But the end, all three learn that their bravery doesn’t stem from fearlessness, but from finding courage in the face of their fears instead.

Fantastic. Clark’s simple, gentle poetry and Östberg’s rich and stunning artwork combine to create a sensitive and empowering volume for young readers. Critically, each story emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with feeling afraid, or even letting fear show; the third, centered around a child who fears receiving a shot at the doctor’s office (a common fear, especially with flu and COVID vaccine season upon us), even notes that his crying and panicking were not marks of failure, but of the fact that he was brave enough to try something so scary in the first place (after centering himself with calming thoughts on the advice of the nurse, he finds the needle wasn’t so scary after all). Östberg’s artwork, with its rich, warm color palette and dynamic use of light and shadow, create a impressive balance that validates the children’s fears while still offering a sense comfort; it’s striking, and fits the theme to perfection. Despite being three books in one, this is not a lengthy read, and can be covered entirely in a short storytime. Lastly, JJ loved it, in particular the gorgeous art and simple-to-read couplets. This is a truly great title for any library, and a wonderful read to encourage that fear is not failure, but an opportunity to be strong. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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